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story.lead_photo.caption Cartoon self portrait by Brandon Province

Since the age of 7, I have been fostering a passion and love for creating characters that form from within my mind.

My passion's origins were strictly entertainment purposes, but as I got older and began to hone my skills as an artist, it really started to become a form of emotional expression for me. In my teenage years, I picked up some "how to draw cartoons" books and started practicing from those. This was really the beginning of my drive toward wanting to become an artist specifically.

With the newfound ability to create within a style that made sense to me, mixed with my naturally comical and charismatic personality, my "internal universe" could leak into my "external universe" — and, in some cases, vice versa. If I ran into issues or really needed to express something that was bothering me, I had a healthy avenue of which to illustrate a solution — or at the minimum, an emotional solution.

It was during this time that I created my first original cartoon strip known as "Meathead." People found "Meathead" entertaining because they were able to relate to the stories and jokes. Subsequently, this got my cartoon strip featured every Monday for four years or so in Mid-Missourian's "Mini-Mo" children's newspaper.

After high school, I spent some time exploring my humanity while also deciding what I actually wanted to major in if I went to college. I tried both illustration and animation majors at two different schools, but neither really stuck with me. I used to believe I just wasn't good at traditional learning, but looking back, I now know it just wasn't the right time in my life to be trying to pursue that level of responsibilities.

It was around this time that my seizures began to surface and my mental health started a massive downward spiral. I ended up homeless and living on a campground for two years because of it.

That's when I took up painting.

The process of painting was an incredibly new experience for me because it was so much more than telling a story. You didn't need characters or words or even ideas really. In some cases, all you needed was a brush, a canvas and some paint, and your feelings and emotions could express themselves through your actions.

Abstract expressionism really spoke to me in a lot of ways because of its purely subjective nature. For years, I dabbled with impressionism, surrealism, expressionism, neo-expressionism and cubism, but it was always abstract expressionism that really pulled me back in.

After achieving a fair amount of local popularity, I decided to return to my original love of illustration with my years of experience as a painter.

Learning to paint really expanded my horizons as an illustrator, and since I had basically given up illustration while I was painting, I had so many years of stories built up in my head that I could now use. Cartoons, comics and graphic novels all became an instrument for me of which to emotionally reach out to the world and show who I am, what I dream of, what I feel and what I fear.

Life has become a series of panels for me now waiting to be created.

Brandon Province is a local artist who is currently building his illustration brand as Mr. Abstracto. Find out more about Province's work at Facebook.com/abstractoillustrations or by finding Mr. Abstracto on Instagram, Twitter or Twitch.

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